When it comes to the delivery of healthcare in the United States, Americans are generally quite fortunate. We have some of the finest healthcare facilities, best-trained physicians and nurses, and dedicated healthcare administrators in the world. Nevertheless, serious issues arise in the delivery of medical services, particularly during surgical procedures involving anesthesia. Unfortunately, human error is often – both literally and figuratively – at the heart of the matter. Errors in the delivery of anesthesia can be more serious than a surgical error itself.
Common Causes of Anesthesia Error
Some types of anesthesia errors occur before the patient is ever wheeled into the operating room. These can sometimes include:
- Failure to review the patient’s medical history sufficiently to alert the anesthesiologist of potential allergic reactions, or other possible complications that can be foreseen.
- Failure to communicate clearly the sorts of preoperative precautions that should be observed by the patient (refraining from eating for a specific time period, failure to take appropriate medications, etc.).
Other anesthesia errors can occur during the surgical procedure itself, including:
- Improper dosage of anesthesia and other medications (too much or too little)
- Inappropriate delay in the delivery of anesthesia
- Failure to monitor patient’s progress adequately
- Failure to administer oxygen in appropriate fashion
- Use of defective or improperly calibrated medical equipment during surgery
Anesthesia Awareness: “Can You Hear Me Now?”
During a standard surgical procedure, general anesthesia has three main stages:
- Going under (induction)
- Staying under (maintenance)
- Recovery (emergence)
Once the patient is unconscious, the anesthesiologist maintains that status throughout the remainder of the surgical procedure. In some rare cases, however, a patient experiences “anesthesia awareness.” The patient is aware of what is going on – he or she can hear the surgeons and staff, and feel horrific levels of pain – but is unable to communicate that fact to the medical staff.
Experts say that the phenomenon is rare, occurring in only one in every 2,000 general anesthesia surgeries, but with more than 51.4 million surgical procedures performed each year (according to figures released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), it is an all-too-common side effect. Even accounting for the fact that many surgical procedures use local, not general, anesthetic, there are many cases of anesthesia awareness each year. Some of these are due to human error. Studies also show that such patients can develop post-traumatic stress disorder.
Other Adverse Effects of Anesthesia Errors
Errors in the administration and monitoring of anesthesia cause other medical issues, including:
- Heart arrhythmia
- Seizures and unconsciousness
- Cardiovascular collapse
- Malignant hyperthermia or hyperpyrexia
Anesthesia Errors Can Be Difficult to Prove
Patients should be aware that anesthesia errors are often difficult to prove. Ordinarily, the medical staff involved stick together, saying everything medically possible was done. A skilled, experienced, aggressive legal team is required to handle most medical malpractice claims.
Stewart Jones Hacker Murphy has the experience, knowledge, and attitude required to assist you in reaching the best possible outcome. We also have the skills and tenacity required to take your case to trial, if necessary.
We are one of the most highly respected law firms in upstate New York and the capital district. We have been representing clients for more than 125 years; our law practice has stood the test of time. Make the right call. Call us now at (518) 730-4723 or complete our online form. The E. Stewart Jones Hacker Murphy law firm has an attorney available to assist clients 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year – even on holidays.